You know Santa, right? Big beardy guy, owns a few reindeer, likes to wear lots of red and squeeze down chimneys. Together with his band of helpful elves, he spreads lots of good cheer at the end of each year. That’s no ground-breaking discovery though; there’s lots of stories about the jolly fellow! But do you really believe in Santa?
For most of us, the answer is probably no; some of you may have even dressed up as Mr Claus! More than the gift-giving saint he started out as, Santa is now a Christmas icon whose magic reaches into the darkest corners. While we know (spoiler alert!) that Santa isn’t real, we nurture the joyful myth surrounding him for our children’s benefit.
Some parents will take another approach, choosing not to encourage the lie about the man from the North Pole. Painted more like a fairy tale character, he can be recognised as fictional but loved nonetheless. I’m not here to say which tactic to take, it’s a parent’s prerogative to choose. I’m just a sucker for a story and some imagination!
magic happens when you believe in santa
So what is the benefit of believing in Little Saint Nick? First off, it’s part and parcel of the fun that comes with being a kid. Our little elves will grow up quickly so why not let them enjoy the wonders of naivety for a while? I’d like to think that the big man in the sleigh has a part to play in that! Sure, there’s a balance to be had with what truths we do and don’t protect them from, but that’s a conversation for another time.
Writing a letter to Santa, leaving out food for him and his reindeer, the surprise of finding a stocking…these are some of my fondest festive memories. The cheery fellow is more than just a reason to get excited for presents. He’s a basis for hours of imaginative play and opportunities for learning. The art of writing letters, for instance, is lost on many younger generations. Penning a present list to Santa though, well that’s fun and helps practice their spelling.
There’s also the benefit to their thinking skills. Imagining how a sleigh full of presents could be pulled around the world by flying reindeer challenges their mind. And like an imaginary friend that they gradually outgrow, engaging with fantasy can help them understand the difference between make-believe and reality. While this kind of development isn’t dependant on Santa, why shouldn’t he be involved? It’s hard to avoid him at Christmas time!
unwrapping the truth about father christmas
One way or another, the truth normally comes out around the age of seven or eight. While you might worry about how your little helper will take the news, there are ways to manage it. The first approach is to be open and honest with them, to explain your intentions. While most parents don’t condone lying, exceptions are often made for Mr Claus because of the joy he brings. You’ve shared years of magic together and now they’re in on the secret too.
You may find they have the realisation for themselves before you broach the subject. If they ask you if Santa really exists, don’t panic! Their doubtful inquisitiveness is your way in to gently reveal the truth. In response, ask them how they feel and whether they think he’s real. It may be that they’ve had suspicions for a while and want confirmation.
If they instead start to reason how Santa could fit down the chimney (if you indeed have a chimney), they may look for evidence that he isn’t real. Here’s where you can subtly give them hints. Start by using the same wrapping paper for all their presents or don’t disguise your handwriting on letters from Santa. They can feel proud at sussing you out and you can ask them to help you play Santa in the future. The excitement of the magical myth lives on!
the gift that comes not with a bow but a beard
Whether you decide to raise your children as believers or storytellers, Santa is a gift to everyone. He appears all over the world to young and old alike, inspiring generosity and laughter. If I am lucky enough to have my own family, I hope they will marvel at his magic and encourage me to rediscover my own sense of childish wonder. After all, you don’t have to believe that Santa is real to believe in the joy that he brings.